Millers confront top govt official for favouring cronies with grain subsidy

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By Staff Reporter

MILLERS have threatened legal action against one of the Finance Minister, Mthuli Ncube’s top aides for allegedly creating artificial shortages of mealie-meal.

Andrew Bvumbe, who heads the ministry’s Zimbabwe Aid Debt Management, is accused of denying over 40 millers access to state-funded maize for affordable mealie-meal production.

On 5 December, Ncube announced, through a press statement, that the Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) was going to administer a government-initiated roller meal subsidy programme for all millers in the country.

The directive was however later reversed unilaterally by Bvumbe, who chose only nine millers out of over 40 milling companies to take part in the programme.

In a letter sent on 27 December 2019 to Bvumbe by Wintertons legal practitioners, under the instructions of GMAZ, millers wanted to understand from him (Bvumbe) why he chose to select only a few millers.

“It is common cause that there is a critical shortage of Roller Meal on the market notwithstanding the government’s noble gesture, the reason for this shortage is man-made in that of the 43 millers who sought confirmation for the supply and delivery of the subsidised maize, only nine (9) obtained such confirmation.

“As a result of the non-confirmations referred above, some millers have closed down while others’ businesses are in danger of being wound up as they have not been supplied with the promised maize to enable them to produce the roller meal required in order to make the subsidy programme a success,” reads part of the letter.

The millers also said was if it not because of Bvumbe’s one-man decision, the country could not be experiencing mealie-meal shortages.

“Your decision to confirm only nine out of a possible 43 millers for the subsidy programme has, needless to say, created dire consequences for both suppliers and consumers.

“The citizens of Zimbabwe have the right to sufficient food as provided for in section 77 of the constitution of Zimbabwe. Your actions have thus resulted in the infringement of the said constitutional right.

“We must underscore that members of the general populace are starving as a direct result of your failure to confirm the allocation of maize to some millers to enable them to produce cheap and affordable roller meal in line with government policy.

“Roller meal is in short supply. Government’s good intentions in introducing the subsidy programme has been curtailed,” said the letter.

“In light of the foregoing, we have instructions to request written reasons as to why you have only confirmed allocation of maize to nine out of a possible 43 millers in order to ensure there is sufficient food security in the country.

“We request you to supply your written reasons for your conduct by close of business on or before 02 January 2020. If the reasons are not availed within the specified period, we have standing instructions without further notice to institute legal proceedings against you on an urgent basis,” millers further stated.

Last week, GMAZ held an urgent grain supplies and roller meal subsidy meeting with government and agreed to reverse Bvumbe’s decision.

Industry and Commerce permanent secretary, Mavis Sibanda, who presided over the meeting, said GMB was now assuming its traditional role of allocating grain to all registered millers, abandoning the current scenario in which her ministry and that of Finance had taken over the registering millers.